The Nebraska Sanitarium

This post card photo of the Nebraska Sanitarium was mailed in 1913.
This post card photo of the Nebraska Sanitarium was postmarked in 1913.


Many Adams County people do not realize that the Mary Lanning Memorial Hospital was not Hastings’ first hospital.   The Nebraska headquarters of the Seventh Day Adventist church were in Hastings from 1907 to 1917.  The Sanitarium was one of seven large buildings located on three square blocks between California and Cedar Avenues on East Ninth Street (then known as High Street).  The headquarters complex included offices, a church, elementary and high schools, a nursing school, dormitories, a printing plant and the large Sanitarium.

The Seventh Day Adventists promoted healthy foods and vegetarian diets.  They operated several sanitariums that followed the health principles of Dr. J. H. Kellogg of Battle Creek, Michigan.  The Kellogg Brothers, who made a fortune selling corn flakes,  were a part of the Adventist movement.

The Nebraska Sanitarium, which cost $30,000 to construct, opened in December 1908.  The three story, 65 feet tall frame building included a basement and an open porch on three sides.  The building contained e-ray equipment, several homeopathic treatment rooms and an operating room.  There was room for 30 patients, many of whom stayed for several weeks receiving treatments.

For several years the Nebraska Sanitarium was the only hospital in Hastings and treated non-Adventists as well as church members.  When the Mary Lanning Hospital became fully operational in 1920,  the number of Sanitarium patients fell from an average of 700 a year to only 215.  The building was sold in 1928 to Carl Pratt who used it as a private business college, then during the World War II it was converted to apartments.  It was jokingly called “The Hatchery” because of the many pregnant women who lived there.  The building was demolished in 1986 by Peace Lutheran Church for a parking lot.

The Sanitarium’s most famous patients were John O’Connor, whose body was kept at Livingston Brothers Mortuary for two years, and Carl Burton Whitcomb, a Pauline area farmer,  who was wounded in a gun fight with Adams County Sheriff W. A. Cole in 1916.

Two members of our family have a connection to the building.  Irene Kline and her husband Ken Engel lived in an apartment there shortly after their marriage.  They lived on the top floor and I remember climbing all the stairs to visit them.

Bert Trausch was hospitalized there about 1919.  He was just recovering from scarlet fever and Grandpa Matt made Bert go out and work, carrying manure for the rhubarb plants he was setting.  Grandma Catherine said she told Matt that Bert was still too sick, but Grandpa said, “That won’t hurt them.” He had Ed and Bert helping him, it was about April. Then Bert got sicker, with diarrhea and yellow jaundice.  Bert became so weak he could hardly walk.   Dr. Mace from Roseland treated him, and told them to take Bert to the Seventh Day Adventist sanitarium in Hastings.

In a 1984 interview Bert told the story.  “I had scarlet fever and then I got yellow jaundice. I got the scarlet fever at school [District 28] from the Portz kids. Schifflers got it too.

Ed Trausch remembered ” I was the first one in our family that had it. We went corn shelling and I picked it up. The whole school, everybody had it. That one Portz kid went away to Lincoln to be a mechanic and he came back and he had it and that set the whole country afire around here. Nobody died that I know of.  Lots had after effects–kidney and liver trouble.”

Bert continued the story “All of us got it, we were quarantined all spring and summer.  One would get scarlet fever and be quarantined for three weeks, then another one would get it, another three weeks and that went on. It started in the winter and it was summer before we were out of quarantine.  I was getting better and then I got the yellow jaundice.   I sweat so much the bed sheets turned yellow. I was really tired and my eyes turned yellow. The folks took me to Hastings in Dad’s Overland.  It took an hour to get to Hastings.  Driving a horse and buggy it took about four hours.”  They left him, went home, and didn’t return until he was discharged.  “Them days they didn’t run to town like now.”

“They didn’t give me any medicine. They put me in a salt bath and rubbed salt all over me and then in steam baths to boil the poison out. I was in the sanitarium over a week. I don’t know if it did any good, but I got over it. I was plenty sick.”

It took about a year [for me to recover]. That’s when I quit school.  I was in the seventh grade.  When Schifflers were sick we went over and did their work and when we were sick he came over and helped us. Dad never got the scarlet fever. Schiffler took our cream along to town to sell it for us when we were quarantined and couldn’t sell it. Hell the guys out working in the barn weren’t sick. We did that for them too.

Whether the diet, steam baths and salt rubs helped Bert recover we don’t know.  Probably the days of quiet and rest helped as much as the treatments.




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